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Remembering Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish 10 years after his death

(From The National. Link to the complete article given below)

In describing Darwish’s legacy and greatness, Ahdaf Soueif, an award-winning British-Egyptian novelist and writer, told The National: “Mahmoud Darwish is simply a great poet. He has the poet’s god-given ability to use language to trigger new perceptions and to create the aesthetic fusion that hits the listener or reader’s heart and mind at the same time.

“Add to this that he was Palestinian at a time when Palestine was ‘the cause’ for every native speaker of Arabic, and that he was committed to that cause and fought for it, that he was modest, and charismatic, and you have a superstar. Darwish filled stadiums when he read. You cannot overstate his legacy.”

Born in 1941 in a village in what is today Israel, he witnessed, and was often a part of, seminal chapters in the history of Palestine throughout the 20th century and the start of the 21st century. He was a refugee, revolutionary, nationalist, humanist – all chronicled in his poetry.

The writer ‘has to resist’

In 2008, Darwish was the first writer approached by Soueif and other members of the Board of the Palestine Festival of Literature (PalFest) to be one of the festival’s founding patrons. He accepted.

Darwish was due to participate in the inaugural festival but had to decline due to health issues. His address was a letter welcoming the group of international writers who had travelled to Palestine for the festival, and thanking them for their solidarity. Three months later, he was being laid to rest in Ramallah.

“Darwish was 100 per cent artist, he was also 100 per cent engaged with the struggle for liberation,” says Soueif by email. “In his address to PalFest in 2008, Darwish described his personal task: how the poet ‘has to use the word to resist the military occupation. And has to resist – on behalf of the word – the danger of the banal and the repetitive.’ It’s tremendously touching as well as instructive to read his work with an awareness of that constant struggle to make his work serve his cause and, at the same time, to allow his work to be true to itself, and to create a bit of space for the ‘literariness’ of his poetry.”

Read more at The National link here

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Dispatches from the Land of Erasure


Over the past year, a group of Arab American writers—Hayan Charara, Marwa Helal, Randa Jarrar, Fady Joudah, Farid Matuk, Deema K. Shehabi, and I—began a group text, sharing stories about our own lives and the predicament of being Arab in America. This group text often touched on matters regarding the state of literary arts, though it was equally a space full of photos of our kids and lives. We had the sense of wanting to archive these conversations for future Arab American writers and somewhere along the line, the idea of a group essay emerged. I proposed that it would catalog the erasures we’d witnessed or experienced, but that it also would celebrate the liberatory work happening in our community, the poems and stories and art that hold us together and raise us up. In that group text we were after an asylum, a safe space, where we could explore and share inchoate thoughts, half-dreams, and the rough edges of our feelings.

These dispatches emerge from the inspiration of that space, though they lack the rough and informal improvisatory quality of a community talking with itself. Three other recent essays are also points of departure for these “Dispatches”—all of which were informed by the group text. Fady Joudah’s “Say It: I’m Arab and Beautiful,” Randa Jarrar’s “Ask Auntie Randa” pieces, and my “Same as It Ever Was: Orientalism Forty Years Later” confront the poison of white supremacy and Orientalism in American politics, literature, and culture, while offering antidotes: reclaiming beauty, liberation, and community.

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Israel convicts a Palestinian poet, NYC writers gather in solidarity

On Thursday Palestinian poet and photographer Dareen Tatour was convicted by an Israeli court of incitement to violence and support for a terror organization, ending a years-long legal battle that began with Tatour posting a poem on Facebook entitled “Resist, my people, resist them.”

First arrested in October of 2015, Tatour was one of the earliest targets of Israel’s cybercrime unit, and its controversial predictive policing strategy of scanning social media posts for language perceived to be a threat against the state. In the years since, a rapidly increasing number of Palestinians–many of them teenagers–have been arrested over statements made online, often for little more than using the word “martyr” on Facebook.

In Tatour’s case, she spent much of the past three years on house arrest, as Israeli prosecutors argued that her calls to “resist the settlers’ robbery” and “not succumb to the ‘peaceful solution’” amounted to a violent threat against the state. That position has been condemned by free speech advocates like PEN International, and by over 300 writers, including Alice Walker, Claudia Rankine, and Naomi Klein, in an online petition circulated by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).

While prohibited from accessing the internet or using a cell phone, Tatour has maintained a line to the outside world through letters and her poetry. “Despite all this I have continued to write and I have touched the meaning of freedom,” she wrote, days before the verdict, in a letter addressed to JVP members. “Ideas have wings that no one can bind . . . My words have been able to cross distances and traverse borders until they reached to you.”

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John Berger contemplates life and death at the graveside of Mahmoud Darwish

A few days after our return from what was thought of, until recently, as the future state of Palestine, and which is now the world’s largest prison (Gaza) and the world’s largest waiting room (the West Bank), I had a dream.

I was alone, standing, stripped to the waist, in a sandstone desert. Eventually somebody else’s hand scooped up some dusty soil from the ground and threw it at my chest. It was a considerate rather than an aggressive act. The soil or gravel changed, before it touched me, into torn strips of cloth, probably cotton, which wrapped themselves around my torso. Then these tattered rags changed again and became words, phrases. Written not by me but by the place.

Remembering this dream, the invented word landswept came to my mind. Repeatedly. Landswept describes a place or places where everything, both material and immaterial, has been brushed aside, purloined, swept away, blown down, irrigated off, everything except the touchable earth.

There’s a small hill called Al Rabweh on the western outskirts of Ramallah, it’s at the end of Tokyo street. Near the top of this hill the poet Mahmoud Darwish is buried. It’s not a cemetery.

The street is named Tokyo because it leads to the city’s Cultural Centre, which is at the foot of the hill, and was built thanks to Japanese funding.

It was in this Centre that Darwish read some of his poems for the last time—though no one then supposed it would be the last. What does the word last mean in moments of desolation?

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Book Review: The Parachute Paradox unrolls Palestinian artist Steve Sabella’s quest for a sense of identity

By Joseph Dana

The number of books about Israel and Palestine published every year can feel oppressive to the average reader. Coupled with the constant stream of news, it is clear that there is untappable desire for discussion about the conflict. Yet, new books tend follow the same patterns in terms of approach, construction and content. An in-depth history of one stage of the conflict, a compelling argument to achieve peace or, perhaps, a convincing strategy to challenge the status quo. On rare occasions, an original narrative of the conflict, imbued with honesty and sensitivity, is published.

Steve Sabella’s memoir, The Parachute Paradox, is one such narrative, but it has flown under the mainstream radar. That might have something to do with its author and the unorthodox style of the book. Sabella is an artist from Jerusalem. His art, which has garnered him acclaim from Berlin to Dubai, wrestles with notions of identity in Palestine.

The Parachute Paradox is devoid of the pretension normally associated with conflict memoirs. Sabella doesn’t have anything to prove with his story. As he describes his upbringing in Jerusalem’s Old City and what life was like for his Christian family, Sabella is having a conversation with himself as much as with the reader. He floats between Palestine and Israel, but life in the seam creates more identity problems than it solves. Read more

Source: The National


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Israel Bans Arab-Jewish Romance Novel in Schools Over Fears of Race-Mixing

GaderHayaIn a move one might expect from an Education Minister who’s said such things as “when Palestinians were climbing trees, we already had a Jewish state” and “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life, and there’s no problem with that,” Israel has banned an Arab-Jewish romance novel from schools for “threatening Jewish identity.” Or put more simply, it banned the book over fears that it encourages race-mixing.

The novel, Dorit Rabinyan’s Gader Haya, tells the story of an Israeli woman and Palestinian man who fall in love. The work was recommended for advanced literature curriculums by both the official in in charge of literature instruction in secular state schools and “a professional committee of academics and educators, at the request of a number of teachers,” according to Haaretz.

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New Palestinian literature examines exile, memory and nostalgia

Words Without Borders, the widely-respected magazine of world literature in translation, has devoted its May 2015 edition to new writing from Palestine.

As the blurb for the special edition emphasizes, the “eight young authors here work in multiple languages and hail from five continents, testifying to Palestinian literature’s vast thematic, stylistic, and linguistic range.” Continue reading


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Literature, resistance, hope – and Palestine

Golda Meir stated that if the Palestinians were a people, then they would have literature. No one now can claim that we do not have literature. Palestinian literature has been vibrant for hundreds of years, before the Nakba, and ever since. Just as the fighters resist with stones and weapons, Palestinian writers resist with their writings.

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I Am The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti

michelleCC

 

At age sixteen, I wanted nothing more than to leave my home in Utica, New York for some place, any place that would offer freedom and adventure. My parents, liberal, strongly Zionist Jews, were more than protective; the line between mothering and smothering, had become intolerable. Finally they agreed to send me to Israel to study Judaism and Hebrew with our rabbi’s perfectly well behaved and obedient daughter Miriam. I was sixteen-years-old and it was the summer of 1982.

Other than the blue-and-white tin Jewish National Fund sedakah box my family kept in the kitchen and the money we gave to plant trees in Israel, all I knew was that after the Holocaust, the Jews found a land without a people for a people without a land and made the desert bloom. In retrospect, the sedakah box and the tree planting were a very smart way to create Jewish attachment to Israel. We saw the box every day in the kitchen and were reminded that Israel and our fate were the same. Planting trees was also brilliant, reinforcing the idea that Palestine was a barren land before the Jews arrived. Continue reading


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Kitaab Review: The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti

‘The Almond Tree’ offers much optimism in spite of the violence, mayhem and melee and speaks to each of its readers through its lucid narrative and easy to follow plot and storyline, says Monica Arora in this review for Kitaab.

almond_tree_cvrThe bewitching debut novel ‘The Almond Tree’ of the Jewish American author Michelle Cohen Corasanti, a Jewish American is a busy story. Buzzing as it is with its dozen odd characters, mostly members of Ahmed’s family, his friends and mentors, who is the narrator of this saga, this is a heart wrenching account of misery, resilience, hope and the indefatigable human spirit and family bonding. Right from the first chapter when an innocent young child loses her life to the cruelty of landmines in terror stricken Israel, the reader gets a taste of the intensity and grimness of this sordid account woven around the intricacies of the decades-old Israel-Palestine conflict. Continue reading